by Robert O'Reilly
A solitary strike from Garry Buckley was all that separated Drogheda United and Cork City in a keenly contested clash at United Park.
The victory sends the Leesiders three points clear at the top of the SSE Airtricity League table having a played game more than Dundalk.
Drogheda caretaker manager Darius Kierans named an unchanged side from last Friday’s victory over Bray Wanderers while Cork make three from the scoreless draw away to Sligo as Dave O’Leary, Gavin Kavanagh and Josh O’Shea all started.
The home side almost opened up the Leesiders defence after two minutes as Gary O’Neill’s flick on released Gavin Brennan down the left but the winger’s cross was blocked behind by Gavin Kavanagh.
City were to carry the more attacking threat in the early stages and they came close to taking the lead on 15 minutes as a speculative half-volley from Darren Dennehy from all of 35 yards had Micheál Schlingermann worried.
The Drogheda keeper was in fine form throughout and he produced a stunning fingertip save to keep the game on level terms as Mark O’Sullivan’s header looked destined for the back of the net from John O’Shea’s cross.
A mishit cross from Darren Dennehy tested Schlingermann once again and United counter-attacked with pace as Shane Grimes crossed for Brennan but the midfielder’s shot was beaten away by Mark McNulty.
The same two were to clash again as Brennan’s downward header from Cathal Brady’s cross was weld held by the Cork number one as the home side went into the interval the stronger.
O’Shea, who switched to the right wing in the second half, squandered the best chance of the game as he latched onto the end of Billy Dennehy’s pass but ballooned the ball over from ten yards.
After that missed chance for City, Drogheda were to embark on a 15 minute spell in which they had the visitors on the ropes. Firstly, a long ball down the right was well controlled by Brady and he beat two Cork defenders before being denied by a last ditch tackle from Brian Lenihan.
Ten minutes later, the ball was worked to Gavan Holohan on the edge of the box and the midfielder hit a powerful drive that cannoned back off the crossbar before being headed away from danger.
Cork manager John Caulfield made three quick substitutions with Liam Kearney, Cillian Morrison and John O’Flynn all coming into the game as City regained control.
They eventually broke the deadlock on 81 minutes as Drogheda failed to clear a long ball into the box and Buckley swiveled and volleyed across Schlingermann to give Cork a precious lead.
United pushed for an equaliser in the dying stages of the game and the home fans were left frustrated as Drogheda had a goal ruled out due to an infringement by substitute Declan O’Brien on McNulty.
The victory leaves the Leesiders top of the league at least until Dundalk’s match on Sunday while a much improved Drogheda will have to wait a fortnight before their next competitive fixture against away to Shamrock Rovers.
by Robert O'Reilly
Drogheda United will be looking to derail the title challenge of Cork City when the sides meet tomorrow night at United Park, kick-off 7.45pm.
United picked up their first win in seven league games when they defeated Bray Wanderers 3-1 last Friday, a victory that lifted them to ninth in the league and four points above the relegation playoff position.
Drogheda will be without Paul Andrews as the defender will serve an additional three-match ban for his red card against Sligo Rovers a fortnight ago while Ciaran McGuigan will be missing due to injury. New signing Peter McGlynn could make his debut if the Drogs receive international clearance before tomorrow’s game.
Cork City will be travelling to United Park full of confidence as they sit level on points with Dundalk at the top of the SSE Airtricity League table. They were held last time out away to Sligo, a result which marked Cork’s fifth consecutive clean sheet but manager John Caulfield has several absentees for Friday’s clash.
Gearóid Morrissey and Dan Murray are suspended for the Leesiders while Michael Rafter, Darren Murphy, Iarfhlaith Davoren and Rob Lehane are all injured.
City won the reverse future back in April as goals from Liam Kearney, Garry Buckley and Billy Dennehy cancelled out Carl Walshe’s consolation strike.
Speaking on Thursday, Drogheda United caretaker manager Darius Kierans praised the work rate of his side but acknowledged that they will need to improve to take anything against Cork.
“I think the key to the victory against Bray was the hard work that the players have been putting in during training over the last couple of weeks. We got a starting point from our performance in the game against Sligo and we took it one step further against Bray but there are still plenty of aspects of our game that need improving on.
“Cork have been outstanding this season. They have been a good team for the last number of years but have really kicked on under John Caulfield and are second in the league on merit. It’s going to be a tough game but the onus will be on Cork to come up here and win the game so we will use that to our advantage.
“There is no point in denying that a draw tomorrow would be a good result for ourselves but I have never set a side up without the intention of winning the game. We need to focus on our own performance and let the result take care of itself.”
Cathal Brady (Seán O’Connor 74’)
Gary O’Neill (Declan O’Brien 74’)
Gavin Kavanagh (Liam Kavanagh 52’)
David O’Leary (John O’Flynn 67’)
Joshua O’Shea (Cillian Morrison 59’)
Garry Buckley 81’
Mick Daly (yellow) 90+2’
Gavin Holohan (yellow) 82’
Stephen Maher (yellow) 59’
Billy Dennehy (yellow) 86’